4 Returns: transformative change requires a common language and a practical framework

4 Returns is a science-based framework that is proven in practice. Developed in close collaboration with leading scientific institutes, business schools, farmers and experts, 4 Returns transforms degraded ecosystems by focusing on 4 key returns over the course of a single generation, or 20 years.

Inspiration
Giving people hope and a sense of purpose.
Social Capital
Bringing back jobs, business activity, education and security.
Natural Capital
Restoring biodiversity, soil, water quality and capturing carbon.
Financial Capital
Realising long-term sustainable profit.

Today, many people are disconnected from nature and unable to see the connection between healthy landscapes, a stable climate, food security and their own well-being. We see this loss of connection and inner purpose as a severe threat from landscape degradation, as landscapes are the mirror of our soul.

We believe that by making people aware and engaging them, a sense of hope and purpose will return. We pursue this by deeply understanding local and indigenous ownership and wisdom, grasping the meaning of long-term commitment for governments, companies and investors, and taking time for inner reflection.

 

We rely on healthy ecosystems to provide us with our basic social needs. A loss of productivity of the land leads to a loss of economic activity, jobs, income, security, social cohesion, education, social services and healthcare.

Landscape restoration provides a solution by attracting investment in the land. This brings along renewed economic activity and opportunities for social development. In fact, various countries have already implemented landscape restoration as a means to create jobs.

The world’s landscapes and ecosystems are degrading at an unprecedented pace because of the over-exploitation of natural resources, leading to a changing climate, species extinction, desertification, forest fires and mud streams. This causes problems in agriculture, forestry, water, health and migration. It is becoming a threat to human well-being in many aspects.

Fortunately, the restoration of large-scale ecosystems can be done. This will return essential ecosystem services on which we are heavily depending, including fertile soils, water, biodiversity, biomass and carbon storage.

Our economy has led to what we call the ‘degradation industry’, based on the maximization of financial returns per hectare. This approach initially yielded a lot of profit, but is now a severe threat to human well-being, the global economy, and society.

We develop business cases from landscape restoration which are viable and sustainable in the long term. These business activities produce financial benefits to all stakeholders, such as sustainable agriculture and forestry, real estate investment, tourism and sustainable industrial development.

3 landscape zones

The 4 Returns holistic framework breaks down landscape restoration into 3 distinct landscape zones – natural, economic and combined.

Natural zone

Regenerating a landscape’s ecological foundation by restoring and protecting native vegetation, trees, and biodiversity.

Combined zone

Restoring the topsoil and biodiversity, and delivering sustainable economic returns through regenerative agriculture, agroforestry and rotational grazing.

Economic zone

For delivering sustainable economic productivity with dedicated areas for value-adding activities like processing, typically concentrated in urban areas.

Investment

  • Restoring vegetation
  • Planting native trees and clearing invasive species
  • Natural restoration
  • Limited maintenance

Return

  • CO2 capture, water, soil
  • Restored biodiversity
  • Forestry, hunting
  • Tourism

 

Investment

  • Restoring landscape
  • Planting usable trees
  • Restorating perennial vegetation and soil
  • Limited maintenance

Return

  • CO2 capture, water, soil
  • Partially restored biodiversity
  • Agroforestry, fruit trees, timber
  • Tourism

Investment

  • Regenerative agriculture, forestry, aquaculture
  • Real estate, infrastructure that fits the landscape
  • Ventures with positive impact on landscape

Return

  • CO2 capture, water, soil
  • Crops and products
  • New businesses, new collaborations
  • Economic development

 

20-year restoration cycles

The 4 Returns framework functions in 20-year restoration cycles. 20 years because that’s the minimum period needed to bring back a landscape’s ecological foundation. Long-term commitment is essential.